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Posts Tagged ‘Mary Magdalene’


Thursday, April 2, 2020

John 20:14-18

At the empty tomb: Why are you weeping?

Mary turned and saw Jesus there, but she did not know it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”  She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him”.

When life presents us with circumstances that confuse our senses, how do we bring reality into focus?  What promises do we make; what vows do we forswear?

When family or friends hurt or disappoint us, how do we recover?  To what lengths do we go?  What bridges do we build?

When we suffer a loss that is too great to handle, how do we move forward?  What do we expect? What do we hope?

Mary Magdalene’s sorrow and love are evident in this brief exchange. So churned by emotion that she does not recognize the Teacher, she speaks to a man she takes for a stranger and asks for his help.  No matter the consequence, no matter the danger, she is more determined than ever to at least bring proper respect to Jesus’ body.  Tears cloud her eyes as she waits for an answer, and then . . .

“Mary!” Jesus says to her.  In that instant Mary hears the familiar call . . . and she feels, more than sees, the Christ standing before her.

“I have not yet ascended to the Father,” Jesus tells her, “But go to my brothers and sisters and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”.

Ven der Weyden: Mary Magdalene

Ven der Weyden: Mary Magdalene

In this quick conversation Jesus and Mary have said all they need say to one another.  She is distressed.  He wants to calm her fear.  She is distraught.  He wants to sooth her too-jangled nerves.  She needs more strength than she can muster on her own.  He wants to give her his broad shoulders that carry the heaviest of yokes.  She is exhausted with grief and he has paused in this most important of journeys to stay a moment with her because he sees that she needs him.

She asks . . . he gives . . . generously.

What does Jesus tell us when we call on him in our Magdalene moments?

Jesus tells us that all is well. He explains that God has the situation in hand.  God his Father, God our Father.  Jesus also wants the word to go beyond just him and the Magdalene, beyond just you and me.  Jesus wants the world to know that he has not abandoned us.  He wants each of us to know that he is aware of what is happening at every moment in our lives.  Jesus wants to take each of us with him to the Father.

Why are you weeping? Jesus asks.  Let us be honest and tell Jesus all.

Tomorrow, the appearance to the disciples . . .


A re-post from Holy Week 2013.

Images from: https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/rogier-van-der-weyden-the-magdalen-reading and https://stillblondeafteralltheseyears.com/the-empty-tomb-master-sculpture-of-mary-magdalene/

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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

John 20:11-13

Mary Magdalene cave[1]At the empty tomb: Where the body had been . . .

Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping.  And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been.

When life presents us with circumstances that confuse our senses, how do we bring reality into focus?  What strategies do we employ; what philosophy do we invoke?

When family or friends hurt or disappoint us, how do we recover?  How do we regain our sense of well-being or at least regain our footing?

When we suffer a loss that is too great to handle, how do we move forward?  To whom or to what do we turn?

It is likely that Mary Magdalene has been anxious for weeks as she followed Jesus in his preamble to death.  She has served him, listened to him, talking with him and sat with him.  She must have sensed that their lives would change inexplicably and forever.  As events have unfolded she has winced with every insult, died a small death with every curse, and somehow handled the gnawing dread that all was going horribly wrong . . . yet the Teacher had remained so calm, so focused, so compassionate . . . and so determined.

What were the conversations among the women that took place on that Sabbath that bridged Good Friday and Easter Sunday?  What had they discussed?  Did they unravel the horror they had witnessed?  It is likely they had tried to prepare themselves, but this . . . this disappearance . . . this mysterious end was more than she could take in.  Had someone taken the body away?  How deep was the hatred against the Teacher?  How narrow were the minds of Jesus’ single-minded persecutors?  And now . . . was she really seeing two angels seated calmly in the tomb?

One at the foot.  One at the head.  Exactly where the body had been.  She knows she will remember this detail forever. She knows she is not mistaken.  This is the tomb.  That is where the body lay.  What does this mean?  Who are these creatures and what have they come to tell her?  Suddenly a new fear explodes within. Will she be able to bear any more bad news?  Will they know where Jesus’ body has been taken?  What have these creatures come to tell her and why do they sit so tranquilly?

Gian Girolamo Savoldo: Mary Magdalene Approaching the Tomb

Gian Girolamo Savoldo: Mary Magdalene Approaching the Tomb

Suddenly one of them speaks – asks a question, actually – and she realizes that the voice is consoling and almost sweet; yet strong and steady.  Why are you weeping?” 

No, this unearthly creature does not understand.  Another hope dies as she attempts to explain: “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they have laid him”.

It is too much to bear and so she turns away, crying openly now that she has been forced to put into words her greatest fear: She had reconciled herself to having lost Jesus in life, and now she must deal with losing him in death.  She will not even have a grave she can visit and remember . . .

Mary gathers herself as she has done so often in her life.  She turns . . .

Tomorrow, the continuing reflection at the empty tomb . . .


Images from: http://metanoia-mrc.blogspot.com/2011_04_01_archive.html and https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/giovanni-girolamo-savoldo-mary-magdalene

A re-post from Easter Week 2013.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2013

John 20:1-10

open-tomb[1]And he saw and believed . . .

As we continue our journey through a pandemic, we visit Easter Week post reflections from 2013. God guides and protects. Christs visits and heals. The Spirit comforts and abides.  

The details that appear so simply in John’s accounting of the open tomb call us into the scene.  We are invited to notice small, tangible points that tell the story so well that none have since forgotten it.

Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark . . . She must have fretted most of the night, unable to sleep, anxious to return to the place where his body was laid.  We follow her down into the abandoned quarry that now serves as a cemetery and we see that the open tomb, the heavy stone moved, no soldiers and no body.  Even in the darkness Mary knows that Jesus has gone.  She senses, more than sees, that he has gone. But where?

So Peter and the other disciple both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter, and arrived at the tomb first . . . Being younger than Peter, John arrives first on the scene once the women alert them.  A thousand possible scenarios surge through his brain. He tries to process them but he lets those thoughts go unprocessed. His only thought is to stand in that tomb to see for himself.  Yet he holds back, waiting for the panting Peter who goes into the tomb without pausing.  As the light curls across the morning sky Peter and John squint into the darkness, sensing, more than seeing, that Jesus is not there.  But if not here, then where?

Grave Clothes[1]They saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place . . . This peculiarity does not escape them and they try to make sense of what they see. They quickly speculate a number of reasons for this small detail but they do not want to be drawn away from the bigger question: where has Jesus gone?  They sense, more than know, that his message at the Thursday evening supper might just make sense.  Is this what Jesus meant when he said those confusing words?  If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.  Where does Jesus intend to take them?  Where are they to meet him so that they might go together?

Then the disciple who had arrived at the tomb first, saw and believed . . . They search one another’s faces then shift their gaze back to the cloths.  The winding-sheet folded carefully as if by an attendant, the face cloth neatly rolled nearby.  An image of the Christ pausing to lay the rolled cloth aside before he leaves the tomb begins to take shape in the disciple’s mind; slowly a knowing begins to form and John allows himself to smile as his eyes move from face to face, then back to the cloths.  Abruptly the first rays of morning light filter into the empty tomb and the apostle is seized by a mixture of joy and fear.

They did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead . . . They know not what is to come.  They know not where they will go.  They do not know how or when Jesus will return but a truth beings to form within just as the early dawn brings light into the empty quarry cave.  Jesus has not died.  Jesus lives.  Jesus has not abandoned them.  Jesus will return.

And in that flash of a moment they see and they believe.

Let us rise up with Easter joy as we examine the story before us.  Let us run to tell what we now know.  Let us say to anyone who will listen that we too, have seen.  And that we too, believe.


For an interesting reflection on the possible significance of the folded cloths, click on the image of the burial cloth above or visit: http://marcohara.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-linen-burial-cloth-of-jesus.html

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Luke 24:1-12: Nonsense

Friday, November 15, 2019

Anthony Frederick Sandys: Mary Magdalene

[The women’s resurrection] story seemed like nonsense and [the eleven and all the others] did not believe them.

We must remember this when others scoff at the perseverance of faith.

He is not here, but he has been raised. 

We must remember this when we are about to give up hope.

Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee. 

We must remember this when we are betrayed or abandoned.

And they remembered his words. 

We must remember this . . .

Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James . . .

We must remember that these followers of Christ persisted . . .

even when their words were labeled as . . .

nonsense . . .


Written on October 17, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://omegafoundation.siriuscomputing.net/Spirit/MaryMagdalen.htm

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Mark 16: The Magdalene

Monday, August 12, 2019

Van der Weyden: Mary Magdalene

A Favorite from July 22, 2008.

The Evangelists tell us that Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene.  July 22 is her feast day. When we pause to reflect on this singular woman, we wonder . . . What must she have been truly like?  What was she thinking as she stooped to look into the tomb as John tells us in his Gospel?  What is her real story?

St. Gregory the Great tells us something of her character.  From MAGNIFICAT: It is true that she had already seen that the sepulcher was empty, and had already reported that the Lord had been taken away.  Why did she stoop down again, why did she long again to see?  It is not enough for a lover to have looked once, because the force of love intensifies the effort of the search.  She sought a first time and found nothing; she persevered in seeking, and so it happened that she found him.  It came about that her unfulfilled desires increased, and as they increased they took possession of what they found.

From the Mass readings:  The Bride says: on my bed at night I sought him whom my heart loves – I sought him but I did not find him.  I will rise then and go about the city; in the streets and crossings I will seek him whom my heart loves.  I sought him but I did not find him.  The watchmen came upon me, as they made their rounds of the city: Have you seen him whom my heart loves?  I had hardly left them when I found him whom my heart loves.  (Song of Songs 3:1-4b)

O God, you are my God whom I seek; for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.  ( Psalm 63)

What is the Magdalene’s story?  Why does she come with the other women, worrying about who will move away the stone, carrying the spices for embalming?  Why does she return, bending to look another time when she knows the tomb to be empty?

Henryk Siemiradzki: The First Meeting of Christ and Mary Magdalene

The Magdalene believes.  She trusts.  She hopes.  She endures.  She perseveres.  She will not be turned away.  She loves.

Any one of us who has truly loved understands this force of love about which St. Gregory writes.

Any one of us who has sought that which has been lost has felt this sorrow.

Any one of us who has persisted in our search has found this joy.

And so we wonder . . . what is the Magdalene’s real story?


Images from: https://thenoontimes.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/henryk_siemiradzki-_christ_and_sinner-_the_first_meeting_of_christ_and_mary_magdalene-_18731.jpg and http://www.bible-topten.com/MaryMagdalene.htm

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation.” MAGNIFICAT. 7.23 (2008). Print.  

For more on some of the many portraits and statues of Mary Magdalene, click on the images above or go to: http://www.bible-topten.com/MaryMagdalene.htm

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Mark 16:9-15: A Prayer for Unbelief 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

José de Ribera: The Penitent Magdalene or Vanitas

In this second week of Eastertide, as we conclude our exploration of Easter Week Gospel readings, we challenge ourselves to decide where we stand in the Easter story. How many times does Christ approach us to share the good news that our freedom is won? How often do we panic because we have forgotten the Easter miracle of restoration? How frequently do we give thanks to God for the goodness in our lives and then turn to go out to share this good news?

Now after [Jesus] rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went out and told those who had been with him, while they were mourning and weeping. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it. 

We may be the mourning Mary who experiences rejection when she shares her hope-filled story with others, or we may be those who scoff at her joy.

After this [Jesus] appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.

We may be the Emmaus disciples who spend a day and share a meal with the risen Christ, or we may be those who are content in their skepticism.

Later [Jesus] appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.

We may be one of the eleven who huddle in the upper room, afraid to leave and afraid to stay, persisting in our unbelief. Or we may take in Christ’s rebuke, and then go out to join all of creation in praising God.

And [Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.”

We may be one of those who persists in the bitterness of disappointment, or one who neither doubts nor believes but who chooses to stand in some in-between world of detachment.

Today, as we consider that Christ leaves not one of his sheep behind, let us choose to believe the Easter miracle and take up Christ’s gift of new-born joy rising from pain. Let us admit that we have the freedom to choose to ignore or to react to Christ’s presence in our lives. And let us put aside our unbelief to join all of creation in praise of God’s persistent love. And so we pray.

Good and gentle Jesus, you know what to say to us so that we might believe. We thank you for your hope. 

Gracious and generous God, you meet our fears with your mighty persistence. We thank you for your fidelity.

Giving and merciful Spirit, you calm our fears and soothe our anxieties. We thank you for your love.

Amen.


Today’s verses are from the NRSV translation of Mark’s Gospel. When we open other translations, we also open ourselves to Easter belief.

Images from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/ , http://www.jesusplusnothing.com/studies/online/roadtoemmaus.htm and http://www.beliefnet.com/espanol/20-asombrosas-palabras-de-jesus-para-ti.aspx?p=9

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John 20:11-18: Overwhelmed

Antiveduto Gramatica: Mary Magdalene at the Tomb

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

In this second week of Eastertide, we continue to relive the Easter miracle of our resurrection. We re-visit the Gospel readings for the Easter Octave, and today we reflect on our response to the Risen Christ’s call that we too often miss because we are overwhelmed.

Mary stood crying outside the tomb.

We wonder where we might find God amid the horrors of war. We see no way forward and shrink from those why ask, “Where is your God now?” And because we are overwhelmed, we do not see that Christ accompanies us in faith.

Woman, why are you crying?

We wonder where to look for God amid the homeless, the radically poor, and the fully marginalized. We move forward slowly in darkness, waiting for the light. And because we are overwhelmed, we do not see that Christ accompanies us in hope.

Then she turned around and saw Jesus standing there; but she did not know that it was Jesus. “Woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who is it that you are looking for?”

Mary Magdalene Sees Jesus at the Empty Tomb

We wonder how to encounter God as we struggle to survive the battles of life. We grope for surety, anticipate a surge of confidence, and wonder where compassion is hiding. And because we are overwhelmed, we do not see that Christ accompanies us in love.

Mary stood crying outside the tomb.

The angels of God ask Mary directly – and they ask, “Woman, why are you crying?” Can we give up our fears, give in to these angels, and rely on Christ’s presence?

Christ himself stands before Mary – and he stands before us – to ask, “Who is it you are looking for?” Can we surrender our anxieties, trust Christ himself, and believe that God turns all harm to good?

When circumstances and emotions overwhelm us . . . are we willing to let go of all that terrifies us . . . to fall into the loving presence of the risen Christ?


This selection from John’s Gospel appears frequently in liturgical readings and when we spend time with these verses, we understand why. Read more reflections on this citation on this blog, search for these posts: Overwhelmed by GraceWhere the Body Had Been, Possibilities, Turning Again.

For more reflections on Mary Magdalene, enter her name into the blog search bar to discover what she has to say to us today.

Images from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Antiveduto_Gramatica_-_Mary_Magdalene_at_the_Tomb_-_WGA10352.jpg and http://www.graspinggod.com/jesus-and-mary-magdalene.html

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Isaiah 52-53: Servant Work

James Tissot: Mordecai

Good Friday, March 30, 2018

The second part of Isaiah’s prophecy, the Book of Consolation, contains clear instructions for what to do when we are deeply troubled, for when we believe that we do not fully understand God’s plan, for when we feel abandoned by God. Verse 20 with its imagery of children caught in a net is particularly troublesome; but the image of our enemies drinking from the bowl of wrath that they themselves have brewed, quickly follows. This image reminds us of Haman in the story of Esther. As a successful servant of King Xerxes, Haman displays jealousy of Mordecai, a Jewish man whom Xerxes respects and values. Upset that Mordecai worships the One God, Haman fumes when Mordecai will not bow in homage to him. Haman plots a genocide of the Jews, and he erects a gallows in front of his house so that he may witness Mordecai’s execution. Later we discover that it is Haman and his family who are executed on this gallows.

So when we are fear-filled, we must remember to ask God’s grace, patience, and wisdom, to discern God’s hand in all that happens around us.  We try to follow the example that Jesus has shown us, we abide in the faith that God knows all and keeps promises, and we pray intercessory prayers for those who do us damage.

See, my servant shall prosper, he shall be raised high and greatly exalted.  Even as many were amazed at him – so marred was his look beyond that of man, and his appearance beyond that of mortals – so shall he startle nations.

James Tissot: The Council the Morning of Good Friday

As faithful servants, we strive not for perfection but for persistence. We cannot expect to live life unscathed, rather, we strive to reach the potential God has placed in us.  The faithful servant wears the scars of existence and lives along the margins of life. This servant does not seek comfort in the physical world, nor does this one stay long in the heady turmoil of power, fame and wealth.  The true servant meets God’s mercy and grace through the pain and suffering of life.  The true servant knows that she finds serenity in God and not in the superficial satisfaction of grudges long held or of worldly battles soundly won.  This is the mystery of Christ, and it is the mystery to which we are called.  We are created to be servants to one another, servants of God.

On this Good Friday, we remember that Mary Magdalene in the cemetery garden and the apostles on the road to Emmaus did not recognize Christ in the early moments of his return . . . so transformed was he . . . so momentous was the transition from one life to the next.

This one who is God himself comes to meet us through the woe of our living.

This one who is God himself comes to meet us through the miseries of our existence.

This one who is God himself graces us with his healing touch.

This one who is God himself knows the intimate detail of our suffering.

This one who is God himself loves us so much that he will go wherever we are . . . sit with us no matter who we are . . . walk with us no matter where we go. This love knows no limit.  This love leads us to joy.

Servant work is difficult.  Servant work is frustrating.  Servant work is humbling.  Servant work is a gift.  Servant work is the only work truly worth doing.  Servant work is the work of Christ.  As servants, we want to Awake, awake and put on our glorious garments of celebration.  We want to shake off the dust, ascend to the throne with Christ where the bonds will be loosed from around our necks.  We come forth, to depart, to set our feet upon the path of our journey with God as our faithful rear guard.  We answer the call we hear . . . for it is the Servant Song, the song of the true, faithful servant.


Adapted from a reflection written on January 14, 2010.

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John 20:11-18: Turning Again

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

James Tissot: Mary Magdalene and the Holy Women at the Tomb

In this second week of Eastertide, we spend time with the Gospels of the Easter Octave, the eight days comprising the celebration of Easter. On day three, Easter Tuesday, we heard John’s account of the discovery of the empty tomb. Today we focus on a few details that bring this story alive. First, we chose a translation that speaks to us most clearly, and then we reflect. Today’s verses are from the USCCB site. (This link also contains an audio version.) We may find other versions by using the scripture link and drop-down menus.

Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been.

When harsh realities challenge our beliefs and foundation, we mourn our loss, question all that we thought certain, and doubt the facts before us. Do we also look for the angels who move with us through our days? Do we offer our suffering as a sign of our trust in God? Do we fall back on the familiar or move forward in hope?

[Mary] turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus.

Anger and fear, confidence and mercy. In times of deep stress, the primal parts of our brain take over and we instinctively collapse into familiar patterns of flight and denial, aggression and accusation. Might we practice the art of relying on the positive influences in our lives? When we feel panic and worry taking over, might we remind ourselves to look for Jesus who stands before us . . . even when we do not recognize him?

She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher.

James Tissot: The Women at Jesus’ Tomb

Our pastor last week, in his morning homily, asked a question we may have been asking ourselves when we look at the detail John provides us. If Mary has already turned away from the empty tomb to look at the man she thinks is the gardener, why does she turn again? And how? When we reflect on these verses, we begin to understand that the second turning is toward a newness in perspective. Mary allows herself to see that the gardener is, in fact, Jesus. Might we follow her example to open our eyes and ears in a new way? Might we have full confidence in the promise of the Christ?

Today we spend time with John’s story of the conversion of Mary at the tomb, and all that followed in the baffling commotion of distrust touched with intense conviction and enduring love. As we read this account today, let us see if we are able to move beyond our anxieties for the world, with the joyful turning of Mary Magdalene.

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